One Friday, she had been sent on an unscheduled overnight trip to New York, and had ended up at Douglas’s place after a tiring consultation with her clients. She had a key to his apartment and though she hadn’t surprised him before, she hadn’t thought twice about it. In her mind, they had been as good as married. In fact, her resignation letter was already typed out and saved on her personal laptop. She was only waiting till the end of their current project to submit it to her manager. Dunni almost bent over with the same pain that she had experienced when she had found him making out on the couch with a young blonde. They both looked up at her and she recognized the woman as the friendly bartender whom she’d met on one of her previous visits when Douglas took her to his favorite bar. Well, now she knew why. Dunni turned to run, but Douglas caught up with her before she got to the end of the hallway.
“Leave me alone!” She had whirled on him and jerked away.
“Dunni, what are you doing here? You didn’t tell me you were coming?”
“Does that make this OK?” She flung her arm in the direction of the living room. “Do you always fool around with others when I’m not here?” She moved away from him as he reached for her again. Tears she hadn’t expected began to spurt from her eyes and she swiped at them, half turning away from him.
“It’s not that, but you should’ve let me know.”
She stared with disgust at what he called his poker face. “Douglas, I just saw you with another woman and all you can say is I should’ve let you know?”
“That’s only polite,” he insisted. His lower lip was now stuck out, reminding her of a petulant child.
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this. What’s next? Maybe you’ll say your unfaithfulness was entirely my fault?” She glared at him through her smarting eyes.
“Oh, please be real, Dunni. I never pretended to be faithful. I'm not a monogamous type of guy. Wasn't from when we first got together. You knew there were the other ladies in Dallas.”
Dunni felt like someone had smacked her in the face. In the fog, she remembered he had once or twice gone home with ladies after a night out back when he’d initially arrived in Dallas and they’d all gone clubbing with the others, but that was before they had started dating.
Her voice came out hoarse when she spoke, “But that was before… I thought that was because I turned you down back then.”
“There was that as well,” he waved his hands dismissively, “but also after. Don’t tell me you didn’t know?”
She shook her head, her legs turning to ice under her. She couldn’t believe how naïve she had been not to have seen this coming. Had the others in the office known? Had they been smirking behind her back? Why had no one told her? Dunni felt like melting into the floor, pain and humiliation buffeting her from all sides.
“To be honest,” Douglas continued, “one woman just isn’t enough for me. Especially you career types that like to break a man’s balls with your intellect and ambition. Sometimes, I just want to dumb down and not have to compete.”
Dunni knew then that he wanted to hurt her, and break her down. He knew her buttons and he was pushing it. She took a deep breath, swallowed the words that crowded her mouth and began the long march to the door. She was done here. If she stayed to listen to more of this, she’d be stripped of her self esteem in no time. She would forgive him, and before she knew it, dependent on the his words to tell her who she was.
“OK, I’m sorry I said that,” he begged, gripping her shoulders, and turning her to him.. “Don’t leave, please. I said I’m sorry. You can go into the bedroom and I’ll talk to Cherry and she can let herself out.”
“Are you insane?” Dunni snarled. All the anger she had been repressing rushed to her head, and she had to restrain herself from slapping him. She couldn’t believe she had shared her life and her body with this man and not noticed this total disregard for women.
“Why would I stay here, and with you?”
“We’re meant for each other, just think about it. We simply need to talk about what has happened and it will be all sorted out. You have to see that my being with other women is not about you. I appreciate you as a beautiful, accomplished person but it’s so boring with just one woman. I thought you might understand, being African and all,” he trailed off and then muttered, “but maybe only a man would understand.”
Dunni was a bit taller than him, and now she drew herself up to her full height on her work heels till she looked down on him. The bright light overhead robbed his brown hair of their usual vibrancy and made him look pale. Dunni wondered what she had ever seen in him. He wasn’t worth the two years she’d spent with him, and he wasn’t worth a minute more.
“You’re a bastard, Douglas. I never want to see you again.”
She scrubbed her face of the tears that had begun again, threw his key in his face and stormed out. It was only after she was checked in at a hotel several blocks away that she fully gave in to her disillusionment. She had always thought she would get married to someone from her country, but the further she’d climbed in her career, the less she had in common with most of the Nigerian men she met. Douglas had seemed to meet her in the middle, he understood what her job entailed and accepted it without the burden of the cultural gender roles that came with being Nigerian. But even he had been a mirage. As she wiped the tears that poured down her cheeks and let out the sobs that heaved over her chest, she promised herself she would never again let a man see her cry. She had made a promise that she would keep her heart safe, even if it meant she would be alone.
Later, she had told those around her in Dallas that the long distance had eroded the trust between her and Douglas, and they’d both amicably agreed to move on. Toyin and a few others had been among those that heard the version of events that said her career had overwhelmed the relationship. No one knew what had really happened and that suited her fine. She’d let everyone believe she was over Douglas and was ready again for another relationship but instead she concentrated on her work, her girlfriends and her hobbies. She felt a touch of sadness because she did want to get married. She envied her cousin and others like her who had obviously been lucky enough to find men who cherished them, and wished she could find that kind of love too. When she remembered what her family were trying to foist on her, Dunni brushed the sad thoughts away.
“Sometimes, men are just not worth the stress,” she said to her cousin, adding, “I don’t want to get into an arranged marriage, and that’s why I’m upset.”
“Alright,” Toyin sighed after looking into her face for what seemed like ages. “I’ll help you on this. Even if I think otherwise, maybe this arangee thing is not for you. But you owe me the full gist about Douglas.”
“There’s really nothing to tell. Douglas is past tense.” And indeed he was.